So often the great scholars and artists speak of their “life’s work” (usually in movies when said work is going up in flames, but that’s beside the point). Yesterday I saw a billboard on the side of the road, an ad for a college. It was probably aimed at people older than the traditional college age and asked something to the effect of “have you found your life’s work?”
Well, because I’m easily sucked in I actually pondered this billboard. I have no plans to become a great scholar or scientist necessarily. I don’t think I’ll be devoting my life to researching a cure for cancer or fighting poverty. I realized, however, that my life’s work will be my students.
As a teacher, my kids will be the ones I stay up nights for, worry over, whose success I obsess about. They’ll be the thing that keeps me going, keeps me moving, and makes it all worth it in the end. (Somehow.) Their learning will be what I measure myself by. They will be the thing I would give up anything for.
I’ve been thinking the last few days about money. Stupid idea, I know. But student loans are scary. The company servicing my loans was kind enough to email me a snapshot of my current debt earlier this week. My mom and I were also discussing a young woman we know who recently graduated as a PA and will be making a considerable salary (more than a teacher’s I’ll tell you that!).
Here’s the thing. If I wanted to, I’m certainly smart enough to be a PA. I have the potential. I’m not belittling what they do, I’m just saying I didn’t pick education because it was an easy A (though yeah I wouldn’t call most of my ED classes thus far challenging). I chose education because I felt called to it.There’s a thousand other things I could do with my life. A thousand other majors. But I chose elementary education because I want to help children and because it’s where God called me.
I went on a rant recently along these same lines, saying how I hope my students appreciate it. And sure, it would be nice if I was appreciated. But what’s going to make it worth it in the end is to see my life’s work succeed. To see a third grader understand fractions or a second grader read “magnificent” or to see them walk across that stage at graduation and know I helped get them there.
My students are my life’s work. Classes will come and go but children will always hold a special place in my heart.
Whether I’m a teacher or a mom or an aunt I would be devoting myself to children. I believe today’s children are tomorrow’s Einsteins, Washingtons, and Austens. They deserve the chance to become the people they are meant to be. I want a hand in forming the artists, thinkers, and world-shakers of the next generation, for the better.
So no, I won’t be making 6 figures and making big changes on the global stage. But maybe my students will.
NOTE: I wrote this post over 2 weeks ago but never got around to publishing it. It speaks to my thoughts at the time and in my firm belief that teaching and/or children are meant to be the focus of my life. Upon rereading this tonight, however, I realize you could replace “my students” with “my kids”. (But that will depend on where God leads me of course.)